Recycling 2.0: How to step up your game

Many of us are already well aware of the importance of "reduce, reuse, recycle," and act on that mantra as a part of our daily routine. In addition to traditional recycling, we've broadened our focus to upcycling and reuse, turning items that might have gone into the recycling bin into crafts, furniture or useful household containers.

As more people and businesses get responsible about sustainability, though, and municipalities in turn handle increased amounts of recycled content, they are asking consumers to become even more sophisticated about what they throw in the bin.

Keep the recycling stream flowing

If too many nonrecyclables are included in a given amount of recycled materials, for example, it can cause the entire load to be rejected from the recycling stream. This is especially true of processing facilities in China, due to recent policy changes.

One of the biggest culprits, especially for apartment communities, is the plastic bags that people use to contain recyclables before pitching them into the community receptacle. If you have to carry items in plastic, just empty them directly into the recycling bin and take your bags back to the store—many grocery stores accept returns of their plastic bags, and carry out their own recycling of this resource.

Don't make assumptions

It's also important to know about local requirements. Some cities have limitations on what kinds of glass or paper you can recycle, so be sure to check your town's website for guidelines.

Here are some resources to help you step up your recycling game:

  • The Recycle Often Recycle Right campaign, run by Waste Management, offers homeowners resources on how and what to recycle, featuring visuals, mythbusters and bin signs. It also has downloadable posters and brochures that kids can take to school.
  • More than 70 percent of electronics, including old cell phones or televisions, may be recyclable. Earth 911 has created a helpful search feature for you to look up places to recycle electronics, using your zip code.
  • Curious what your state has done to promote recycling? has a state-by-state recycling guide that offers an interesting statistic for each state and a link to its relevant webpage for recycling.


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